By Marc Weems
With Youngstown State University women’s basketball team (4-8, 0-1 Horizon League) starting their Horizon League slate, the Penguins would look to start hot in their conference. Cleveland State University (6-6, 1-0) would look to upend YSU.
Although YSU held the pace for most of the entire first half, CSU eventually outlasted the Penguins as YSU can’t get their shots to fall. CSU won 71-68.
In the first quarter, guard Alison Smolinski was able to get the Penguins going as she scored six points in the quarter. YSU led 14-13 after the first quarter. To keep pace for CSU, forward Jade Ely put six points along with five rebounds to keep the Vikings within a point.
In the second quarter, the scoring increased as YSU was able to extend their lead after it was taken from them. At the 6:40 mark in the second quarter, CSU led 26-23 after Khayla Livingston hit a layup.
“We made some mental mistakes in some critical which gave them some baskets which gave them some confidence,” YSU head coach John Barnes said. “They did a great job on the offensive boards and those turned into points on their side.”
From that point forward, YSU went on a 15-6 run to close out the half. YSU led 38-32 at the half with forward Kelley Wright leading all scorers with 12 points. Jade Ely led the Vikings with 8 points.
In the third quarter, Cleveland State was not to be outdone as even when YSU built up a 10 point lead, the Vikings were able to fight back.
“I think they [CSU] did a good job overall in making adjustments,” Barnes said. “Our biggest part was on the defensive end, we scored 68 points today. That’s plenty good enough to win but defensively we struggled a bit.”
YSU’s Mary Dunn exploded after a poor first half to get nine of her 13 points in that quarter. YSU led at the end of the third quarter 56-52. CSU’s Ashanti Abshaw led all scorers with 18 points.
“My biggest thing going into the third quarter was that I needed to get in front of people,” YSU forward May Dunn. “After some time, they [CSU] started realizing what we were doing. They were playing better defense in that time.”
YSU had 70 shot attempts with 34 of them coming from beyond the arc. They only shot 32 percent from three.
The fourth quarter went back and forth the entire length as both teams traded leads. CSU was able to take advantage of YSU’s lack of defense and scored multiple times in transition to take the lead.
The fourth quarter became more about CSU’s Ashanti Abshaw and Jade Ely as they both took over the game. They combined to score 15 of their 19 fourth quarter points. Abshaw finished the game with 27 points and nine rebounds.
“Abshaw is an unbelievable player,” Barnes said. “If she plays the way she plays today, she could be arguably the Horizon League player of the year if she plays like that. You just aren’t going to win many games giving up 27 points to someone.”
Ely added 15 points to go with a career-high 15 rebounds.
Barnes also said that Ely has a bright future being that she is a freshman posting numbers like those.
He also said that overall, they need to get better defensively as they gave up critical points and rebounds in crucial times of the game that can’t happen.
The Penguins will get a bit of break before resuming Horizon League play at Wright State University on January 5, and at Northern Kentucky University on January 7.